Jose Lopez — Spark-Plug


Before we delve into the finer points of yesterday’s trade for Jose Lopez, can we all agree on one thing? Jose Lopez’s nickname will not be J-Lo. Let’s do the guy a favor and call him something else. Tulo and CarGo are easy, but at least those nicknames are unique. We should be more creative with Jose.


Think of Lopez as a more resourceful Clint Barmes. The guys on FX’s The League would call Jose Lopez a “spark-plug” and Barmes a “gym-rat”. In reality the two players are very similar, but Lopez is more versatile in the field. At the plate, Lopez is a free swinger who doesn’t walk much and is tough to strike out. His most prolific power season was in 2009 when he hit twenty-five homeruns. While Barmes hit twenty-three in 2009, Lopez’s power was more impressive; he was playing at pitching friendly Safeco Field. For their careers, Clint and Jose have parallel offensive numbers, including pitches per plate appearance, on-base percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage. Similarly, both players were awful in 2010.

(Photo: Bro-Lo El Cuñado!

Last season, the Mariners were forced to bat Lopez in the clean-up spot and he was a terrible fit. He struggled all year and posted career lows in almost every offensive category. The Rockies lineup is in a different class than the Mariners and they won’t ask Lopez to carry the same kind of load. Hopefully batting at the bottom of a productive lineup and the magic of Coors Field will carry Lopez to new heights.

2010 was Lopez’s first year as a third baseman, and according to the numbers, he was the best three-bagger in the AL. He led the position in assists and in total fielding runs above average. Before moving to third, Lopez was a run of the mill second baseman in Seattle. His defensive metrics at second were similar to Barmes, who was also out of position and will probably start at short for the Astros. But if Tulo misses time again this year, don’t expect Lopez to be the back-up Barmes was. Lopez hasn’t played a game at short since his rookie year in 2004. Still, he is serviceable at short, slightly above par at second and tremendous at third. He is a multitalented package and Jim Tracy can use him in favorable matchups.

In exchange for Lopez, the Rockies gave up Chaz Roe, a 2005 supplemental round pick. He is a tall, lanky sinkerball specialist that struggled mightily in AAA Colorado Springs last season. Roe has shown an ability to keep the ball in the park, but was still hit hard in his first AAA season. He became expendable when the Rox acquired Felipe Paulino in exchange for Barmes.

When viewed as a package, the Barmes and Lopez moves were brilliant. The Rockies essentially traded Clint Barmes and Chaz Roe for Jose Lopez and Felipe Paulino. Lopez has more potential than Barmes and Paulino is a major upgrade over Roe. Paulino has thirty-four Major League starts under his belt, while Roe can’t handle AAA. Worst case scenario, the Rox picked up a damn good defensive third baseman that can play other positions and a solid arm for the bullpen. Best case scenario, they picked up a fifth starter and an everyday infielder with pop. The verdict: a very solid move by the Rockies. With these trades and the signings of De La Rosa and Tulo, this is shaping up to be a very nice off-season for Colorado.

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